Gout is caused by the abnormal metabolism of substances called purines that result in the accumulation of uric acid in the bloodstream. When either uric acid is over-produced or under excreted in the urine, Uric acid crystals deposit in joints or in the soft tissues. When this happens, there is a sudden onset of extreme pain with associated swelling, redness, and increased warmth to the skin or joint. Classic gout occurs in the big toe joint. It also commonly occurs in the ankle or knee joint. Rarely is it seen in more than one joint at a time. Uric acid accumulation in other joints and areas of soft tissue is less common. When gout presents in these areas it, may not be recognized as gout by the treating doctor. Typically the onset of gout is sudden and intense. Frequently, the patient will go to bed feeling fine and wake up the next morning in excruciating pain.
As the crystalline deposits form in the joints and soft tissue, the uric acid levels in the bloodstream can return to normal. Blood tests taken during a gout attack may show a normal uric acid level. This can make diagnosis more difficult, and the physician must rely on his or her clinical experience to make the diagnosis. In the chronic form of the disease, called tophaceous gout, the repeated deposition of uric acid will from nodules about the joints and tendons. These nodules can spontaneously open and drain a chalky-like substance. An attack of gout can resemble an infection. An elevated temperature may also be present. This is worrisome to the physician because an infection in a joint can be a very damaging event. Some doctors may wish to take a sample from the joint so that it can be analyzed for gout and cultured for bacteria.
Our goal at Family Podiatry and Vein Care is to resolve your pain as quickly as possible. Treatment consists of both medications for gout and possible injection therapy. Once the proper medication is prescribed the symptoms of gout will start to subside quite rapidly. Left untreated the clinical course may take several days for the gout attack to subside. The attacks can become recurrent, and over time cause permanent damage to the affected joint (arthritis). Recurrent gout should be treated with medication to reduce the blood uric acid levels. The most common medication used is Allopurinol. This medication should not be started during an acute attack. If this medication is given during an acute attack it will make the condition worse. Acute attacks of gout are treated with a variety of prescription anti-inflammatory drugs. If you think you may have gout, contact us at Family Podiatry. We are here to help you!